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Create A Platform For Success In Your First Job

By Lea McLeod (1781 words)
Posted in College Student/Recent Grad Job Search on August 27, 2013

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You mastered the job search strategy, the resumes, the interviews. Now you have a well-negotiated job offer and are ready to set the world on fire! 


When it’s time to do that, I want you to pay attention to a big part of your job success that is often NOT a big part of your orientation process. Most onboarding processes revolve around the technical side of joining an organization: Benefits enrollment, rules and regulations, getting on the network, all that. 


What is often left out of the onboard process is one of the most critical elements that will fuel your job success as a new grad: building high trust relationships with those in your organization. Not the least of which is your manager.


When you start a new job there’s a lot going on. It can feel like you’re drinking from a fire hose, and in many ways you are. You’ve got checklists and due dates, people to meet, tons to learn. You rush to get to the task at hand, learn your objectives, figure out the “how” of the office. All good.


And, too often in the haste to get into the task at hand, learn the job and meet the other folks in the workplace we overlook this important career-launching step. 


And that step is this: Building a strong foundational relationship with our boss.

Now the interesting thing is that often, even managers forget this step. After all, hiring and onboarding people is a completely separate mission than what most of their job entails. Yet this is one of the most critical enablers to their success. 


Managing is all about getting results with and through other people. That is facilitated by the relationships we have. Relationships are how work gets done. And trust is an accelerator to that work. 


When you first start a job there’s a rosy honeymoon glow. Eventually that glow will be tested by a mistake, a failure, stress or some other real life escapade. If you don’t have good roots set down in your relationship, that test will be far more stressful that it needs to be. Learn how you will both handle situations before you start, and then when they happen, you’ll be able to weather them less stressfully. 


So, to get off to a good start, for you and your boss, you want to make building a strong relationships an essential part of your own personal onboarding process. 


Other considerations...

This might be easier said than done. Your manager may be different from you in any number of respects.


Working for someone significantly older, not located with you or from a different culture might be intimidating. That’s even more reason to make relationship building a high priority. A good understanding of each other will help you weather the inevitable, and improve the quality of your work life.


Here are 7 keys to building a good relationship with your first manager.


1. Understand what his assets are.

Learn what your boss brings to the table and how you complement one another. Discuss your respective strengths, and work types. Know where you have overlap, and allow him to see where you bring strong points that could be helpful to him.


By understanding what you both bring to the table, you’ll be better able to call on that strength, especially when it complements yours. 


For example:

  • Your boss may be a great strategist, but not so good with details. If you’re a detail guy, you can assure him that you’ll have the minutiae covered when you’re working on a project. 

  • Your boss may make great sales presentations, but you may be great on follow-up. Discuss what role you’ll each have. 

  • Your boss may be a great idea guy, but you are great out laying out a plan. Talk about how you can help one another here. 


2. Know her goals.

Here is one thing I see so many people forget, both in the job search and in starting any job. Your job is to make your boss wildly successful. The only reason she hired you is because she believes you will enhance her success. 


Never forget this.


Make it your mission to know her goals and how her performance is measured. Then, make sure you understand how your work feeds into those goals and contributes to her success. Ask her:

  • What deliverables are you responsible for?

  • What are the key milestones we need to meet throughout the year? 

  • What are the key measures of your success? 

  • What can I do to make you more successful, this month, this quarter, this year? 


Every manager will welcome a newcomer who is so invested in collaborative success.



3. Clarify how she wants to receive information.

The exchange of information is primary to your relationship. When not clarified, you’ll see this become tremendously frustrating very quickly. 


With your manager, determine:

  • How does she want to get information from you?

  • Does she want to know the bottom line up front, or does she want to check your math?

  • Does she want spreadsheets or pictures, in a binder or as an email attachment? 

  • Does she want it two weeks before the deadline or the day prior?

  • Does she want it in draft form or “executive-ready?”


Knowing how and when you’ll need to provide information sets expectations up front that will keep you from being (unpleasantly) surprised later.



4. Set up regular meetings.

Figure out how and how often you and your manager will meet. The purpose of your meeting is three-fold:

  1. Update where you are on priority work, ensure you are aligned on priorities, and discuss any status obstacles.

  2. Get feedback on your performance and any new goals.

  3. Tell your boss what you need from him to be more effective. 


Determine how, when and where you will meet. Then get it on both calendars. 


Advocate for a weekly touch base (in person if possible) for getting feedback and making course corrections. You can meet less frequently, and virtually, as you gain more experience and develop a more mature working relationship.



5. Discuss how you’ll make decisions. 

A client once told me she was running to her boss before she made any decision. I encouraged her to test that, and simply recommend she would make decisions to a certain level. Above that, she’d include the manager. 


The manager welcomed her suggestion because she really didn’t want to be involved in low level decisions that consumed her time but had little impact. 


As you begin, clarify what decisions you’ll be directly responsible for, and what decisions require review from your manager. Then figure out how your manager likes to work. 

  • What decisions will you make, and in which does your manager need to be involved? 

  • What data do you need to provide in advance of those decisions? 

  • Is he quick to make decisions or does he analyze excessively before committing? 

  • What can you do to make the decision making process more effective?


This will help you avoid making any wrong assumptions, and give you confidence in your own decision making prowess as you start out.



6. Talk about your working styles.

A typology assessment (such as Myers-Briggs) could be helpful in understanding how you each prefer to work. You may also want to discuss social styles, communication styles and how you’re going to handle conflict. 

  • What about stress? Is he an exploder, or does he simmer?

  • Is he a micro-manager or will he under supervise? 

  • Does he work nights and weekends and expect you to as well?

  • Is he a verbal, auditory or kinesthetic learner? 


All of this will help you understand your boss’s idiosyncrasies (and vice versa) so you aren’t thrown off course wondering why he acts the way he does. And, you’ll be less likely to take style differences personally.



7. Get to know them as a person.

I’m not advising you to become best buds with your boss. But learning who they are, where they came from and what experiences shaped them can be helpful. 


It’s through conversations such as these that we build meaningful relationships so that we can communicate openly and work effectively with one another.


Ask her about the decisions she’s made in her career, both good and bad. Inquire as to what her greatest success is and what contributed to that success. Use casual situations like coffee or lunch to listen to stories, ask questions, and see beyond the “boss” label. Your work life will be richer for it!


When you build a strong foundation with your first manager, you’ll build a platform and process for success that will take you through every job in your career. And when you become a manager, if you aspire to do so, you’ll have a great set of experiences to share with your subordinates. 



{#/pub/images/LeaMcLeod.jpg}Written by Lea McLeod, M.A., Founder & CEO, Degrees of Transition 

Lea works extensively with new grads who are tackling the job search for the first time.  She is a guest speaker, as well as facilitator of the “Find a Job Faster” Job Search Program and “Developing Patterns of Success” Workshop & Webinar series, bringing over 20 years of director level experience, most recently with Hewlett-Packard, managing, leading and serving worldwide employees. She holds a degree in Marketing from St. Bonaventure University, and a Master of Arts in Organization Development from Seattle University.


Do you have a question for Lea?  Post it in our College Student/Recent Grad Community, she will be happy to help: Ask An Expert 


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Here are some related articles you may be interested in:  

6 Tips to Jumpstart Your Career Before Graduation

5 Ways to Build Trust in Your First Job

How You Look Matters in Your First Job

7 Powerful Words to Make You Stand Out at Work 

7 Trust-Killers in Your First Job

7 Ways to Quell First Job Jitters

4 Essential Skills for Leaders, Managers & High Potentials


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